The Internet is packed full of “winning poker strategy articles” advising players of all levels how they should play online poker. Individually, some of these strategies are useful in a specific situation, and it can be wise to read up on individual online poker strategies to be aware of what they are and how they can be exploited when the specific situation arises.
However, there is one “winning poker strategy” in particular that every poker player should adopt if they want to gain an advantage over their opponents, enjoy winning sessions and tournament success – “Player- Position- Cards”. This winning poker strategy stipulates that your betting actions are determined by the players you are playing against, your position in the sequence of betting and the strength of your hand – in that order.
Player – Position – Cards is a strategy that has been used by many poker professionals for decades. You may ask yourself why it is not more often included in the multitude of winning poker strategy articles that permeate the Internet. It is because it is a winning poker strategy and, if you have a poker strategy that constantly wins you money, why would you share it with anybody else?
How Player – Position – Cards Works
The concept behind Player – Position – Cards is very simple. Gather as much information about your opponents as you can and use that information to exploit tells in their game when your position in the sequence of betting allows you to. Compared to knowing your opponents and acting from position, the cards that you have been dealt are relatively inconsequential. Here is an example:
You are playing in a 6-Max cash game of NL Texas Hold´em. You have identified that the player to your right has the following tendencies while on the button:
- When the first three players to act have folded their cards, he often attempts to steal the blinds with a raise 3x the Big Blind.
- He only varies his action when he has a strong hand – in which case he limits his raise to 2x the Big Blind to try and attract some action.
- If there has been action on the table ahead of his turn to act, he will fold rather than call with a weak hand just to defend his position.
Therefore, the next time you are in the Small Blind position, and the player on the button raises by 3x the Big Blind, you have the options of raising the pre-flop bet and forcing the player to fold, or – knowing that you will be the first to act pre-flop – calling the 3x raise and then leading out with a continuation bet after the flop. Both options are likely to win you the pot.
The only variable factor in this example is how the player in the Big Blind will react to a pre-flop three-bet. While you have been gathering information about the player to your right, you should have also been gathering information about the player to your left. Conventional wisdom (and experience) would suggest that the Big Blind will fold their cards unless they have been dealt a monster hand.
You Have to Know When to Hold´em, You Have to Know When to Fold´em
Identifying your opponents´ betting tendencies will not only help you to take down pots without going to showdown, but also save you from leaking chips by getting involved in pots with marginal hands. In the example above, one important takeaway was that the player to your right only bet 2x the Big Blind when he had a strong hand. This information should be used to fold your cards in the Small Blind when faced with a 2x raise if your hand is only marginal.
There are other tells that can give you the information to make chip-saving decisions, such as:
- When a player you have identified as only usually getting involved in a pot in late position raises from early or middle position.
- When a player known for failing to defend his blinds three-bets from either the Small Blind or Big Blind position.
- When you have identified a Sit & Go player who only bets loosely when he has the chip lead. At all other times you should avoid calling or raising his bets.
Obviously observing your opponents and identifying their betting tendencies involves a lot of hard work. There is third-party software on the market that can do some of the work for you; but, as online poker sites are starting to restrict the range of software they will allow players to use, the benefits of technology are not as great as they once were.
Position and Varying Your Own Action
So far we have discussed identifying your opponents´ betting tendencies. But what about yours? Surely if you are studying the betting actions of other players, aren´t they doing exactly the same to you? Absolutely.
To avoid revealing tells about the strength of your hand, what you need to do is vary your betting actions and the positions from which you make them – position being the key. Undoubtedly the later in the sequence of betting you are, the better knowledge you have about how other players perceive the strength of their hands, but too many players place too much importance on “betting from position”.
Occasionally limping in from Under the Gun with a high pocket pair, or quickly raising the pot when three cards of the same suit are dealt on the flop, may give the impression that you are a novice player, but this is a great persona to portray. If your opponents belief that you are fairly naïve, they will not consider your betting actions to be part of a tendency, or be able to use that information against you.
Obviously there is some importance in betting from position and, from time to time, you should observe the conventional “rules” of playing online poker with regard to betting from position. However, betting from position should only be of significance to you when you are reacting to the betting actions of another player or want to give a false impression about the strength of your hand from early position.
When Do We Start Discussing Cards
Actually we don´t. If you can win money by identifying the betting actions of your opponents and using position to your advantage, what does it matter what cards you are dealt? Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little. You may be unwilling to three-bet the button in our above example with 7♠ 2♣, but who said you had to re-raise him every time?
It has been well chronicled that, in July 2007, WSOPE Main Event winner Annette Obrestad won a 180 player online Sit & Go without looking at her cards (although may have taken a peek at them once). Since then more players have advocated “playing blind” to improve their game. This is a strategy I would not recommend exclusively, as it eliminates other important aspects of the game such as pot odds and bluffing.
Nonetheless, those who choose to play blind demonstrate the inconsequential importance of playing to the strength of your hand when considered against the betting tendencies of your opponents and your position. It is a winning poker strategy that has won millions of dollars for the top professional players, and I hope it does the same for you.
Why Am I Sharing My Winning Poker Strategy With You?
I wrote at the top of the page “if you have a poker strategy that constantly wins you money, why would you share it with anybody else?” That´s a viable question to ask and I have an equally viable answer.
Few players use “Player – Position – Cards” properly because of the work that is involved. Consequently many do not have sufficient information to support their betting actions. Their mistakes cost them money and they abandon the strategy as a bad idea. Fewer still remember to vary their own action to avoid revealing their betting tendencies and stick to a conventional “winning poker strategy”.
Personally, I have read hundreds and hundreds of winning poker strategy articles. From those I have understood how other players react in specific situations and used this information to my advantage. I have used betting actions to imply specific situations exist (for example, quickly raising the pot when three cards of the same suit are dealt on the flop) and not allowed opponents to get a read on the strength of my hand.
I enjoy the challenge of trying to establish other players´ betting tendencies. That is why I am sharing my winning poker strategy with you. Online poker can be predictable and boring on occasions. By focusing on “Player – Position – Cards”, each session becomes more interesting and, generally, more profitable.